A few months ago, I stumbled across an Alternet article that argues people who identify as “socially liberal, but fiscally conservative” lack a fundamental understanding of political policy-making, and anyone who holds liberal social views must also hold liberal fiscal views.
As I read through the article, I found myself nodding at some things, and vigorously shaking my head at others.
The claims weren't off-putting because of my specific beliefs, but because of the overall message they send to any young voter who identifies outside of strict party lines.
Here is something the media doesn’t want you to know: It’s okay to be moderate. It’s okay to think outside the box; in fact, it’s a downright necessity. You push our politicians and candidates to think outside the box, as well.
With the next round of debates right around the corner, it’s important to compare the candidates to other members of their own party. Which candidate can lead from the center, or at the very least, compromise on a few issues?
For those of you who identify as socially liberal and fiscally conservative, or as any form of elephant-donkey hybrid, this country needs you.
We need your non-conformity, and here are the reasons why:
You are creative.
Somewhere along the road, you decided not to identify with a political party. Maybe your parents or community raised you with one set of standards, and you decided to rebel.
Maybe you always felt uncomfortable choosing a label. At some point, you decided to look at individual issues, not just platforms.
While many believe moderate voters are ill-informed or naive, Third Way’s “State of the Center” poll reveals just the opposite.
Middle-of-the-road voters recognize the validity of both political parties, and see the issues as multi-faceted and complex. They don’t just plop themselves midway between two parties.
According to columnist David Brooks, moderates preserve our country’s history of tension, and assess their beliefs based on which issues are driven out of proportion by the political poles.
You realize the answer to a problem isn’t necessarily the lesser of two evils; it’s about compromise. You know social issues and fiscal issues are all intertwined, and some solutions that helped the country years ago are not always the best choice for the future.
To you, maintaining a balance of priorities is the only way to create bi-partisan legislation.
The passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a prime example of how moderate thinking can work through the concerns and fears of both parties.
Robert L Burgdorf, Jr. (the author of the bill, which would later become the ADA) wrote in an op-ed that the ADA had support from Regan appointees, a Democratic-controlled Congress and every president (liberal or conservative) since George H.W. Bush signed it into law.
You are not alone.
In 2014, 39 percent of US voters identified as politically independent, according to a Pew Research poll. While many of these independents tended to lean in one political direction or the other, the sheer number of voters who choose not to closely align with a party speaks volumes about the country’s willingness to challenge its own leanings.
In many cases, your vote (or decision to stay home) significantly impacts the outcome of major elections. Because neither liberals nor conservatives make up a majority of the electorate, politicians must campaign to win the majority of moderates in a state, too.
Moderates are the electorate faction most likely to stay home on election day if they are fed up with both candidates. Enough of moderates who voted for Obama in 2008 either stayed home or voted Republican during the 2010 election, to upset the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.
Therefore, politicians must model their campaigns around the notion that an overload of negative attack ads and partisan rhetoric may cost them their wins. A smart politician won’t simply pander to his or her base, but will shape the message to convince the non-believer.
You represent a shift in our party system.
As we approach the primaries, it’s clear the steadfast liberals and steadfast conservatives are the most important factions of the electorate to the presidential candidates. This strategy has worked for years, but it will most likely falter in upcoming elections.
That’s because the younger vote is becoming increasingly purple. Pew research broke down the conservative and liberal voting bases into new categories, some of which include “Faith and Family Left” (Democrats with more socially conservative views than a dyed-in-the-wool liberal), and “Young Outsiders” (Republicans who oppose big government, but are socially liberal).
These groups of people are not going away. For the first time in US history, the number of voters who identify as “socially liberal” matches the number who identify as “socially conservative.”
“Socially liberal and fiscally conservative” voters (or any type of voter who falls in the middle) do not claim to know all the answers. They do not want to sweep important issues under the rug by blindly slashing government programs, or completely ignoring religious rights.
Because of this, they do not apply the same two answers to every problem. They want to upset the status quo and the notion that every problem can be solved with one of two solutions. They are frustrated with an election culture that values the political extreme (an ever-increasing minority) over the ideological center.
In the end, what you believe is what you believe. While some "socially liberal, fiscally conservative" voters may not realize the full political implications of their views, it's dangerous to label everyone in that school of thought wrong. That is the behavior we criticize partisan politicians for every day.
We need creativity of thought now more than ever.
Rather than polarizing the political hybrid, let them to do their thing, share their thoughts, grow their ideas and learn to communicate with (and perhaps become) our politicians. We may be thanking them down the road.